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Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer

What are Forceps?

 

A:

Forceps are tools that obstetricians use to help guide the baby out of the birth canal during a delivery.  Some people describe forceps as being nothing more than stainless steel salad tongs. Some have serrated edges. Some are angled in an effort to allow a doctor who applies them to the baby's head to gain the most beneficial traction using the best mechanical position.

Most forceps have an interlocking device so that once both blades of the forceps are applied, the handles are then locked together in an effort to uniformly apply traction on the baby's head in order to accomplish the delivery.

Unfortunately, the use of forceps at most university affiliated hospitals are a dying art. The “old-timers” were often trained in the use of forceps. However, in today's medical-legal climate many physicians and doctors-in-training (also known as ob/gyn residents) will usually opt for a cesarean section instead of a forceps delivery if given a choice. 

The reasoning is that if the doctors-in-training have not been trained and are not comfortable using forceps, then if there is a complication that arises during the course of delivery, instead of making an effort to deliver the baby vaginally with the assistance of forceps, many doctors will instead choose to perform a C-section instead.

Applying forceps also requires skill. The doctor must take one blade along with their hand and insert it into the birth canal in order to make sure the placement is correct and accurate. Then using their other hand, they must do the same maneuver with the remaining forcep blade. Before putting on the forceps, it is critical for the obstetrician to know exactly where the top of the baby's head is in order to know the correct positioning of the baby.

If the forceps are applied without knowing the positioning of the baby, or incorrectly applied, the forceps can cause trauma and bruising to the baby's head and face.